Tag Archives: multiplayer

Potlucking It

Quick note before I dash off again.

  • I’ll be telling you all soon about an interesting and exciting new writing project I’m starting on with several others. Details to follow in the next day or three.
  • I have a book review I need to write up on “Tobias Buckell’s”:http://www.tobiasbuckell.com/wordpress/ _Crystal Rain_. Again, details to follow in the next few days.
  • Lots of stuff happening lately, including the possibility of adding another 30 acres to our property. Lots of research going into this, and we’ll see if things go through.
  • Good night of Halo last night. Good friends, good games, lots of laughs. Makes me want to jump again real soon and play some more.
  • I’m working on polishing a short story. I missed my August submission goal, but I’m going to shoot to have this one done in the next two to four weeks. I want to finish up this first draft, get a critique, revise again, possibly go for a second critique, do a final polish, and submit. That’s the plan, folks.

Aight, I’m audi…


I’ve been learning a thing or three about simplifying my life.

I’m one of those people who’s curious about and interested in just about everything. This has always been both a blessing and a curse because it has always made it difficult for me to figure out what subjects and hobbies to pursue. It’s the sort of thing that gave me trouble in college because I couldn’t decide which major to pick, so as a result I graduated with one major, three minors, and enough knowledge in other fields to technically have given me at least two other minors. It’s the sort of thing that has always made it difficult to use my free time well because I want to do too many things with those minutes.

But life these days has become incredibly full, so I’m learning to trim things. It’s a tough process because I don’t really want to trim things out of my life. But I’m learning that I really can’t do them all, even less so now that I have the obligations of a family and livestock and a property to keep up. I’m figuring out how to identify those things that are truly my passions and those that are simply my interests and hobbies.

I’ve more or less eliminated everything but my music, my writing, and Halo. I’ll be getting a piano around Christmas, so I’m eagerly anticipating getting back into lessons and picking up where I left off. I miss visiting my music, and I’m itching to really nail some ragtime and start learning how to play by ear and improvise. It was something I was just starting to learn when I had to give up lessons several years ago.

My writing has quite possibly surprised even my love of music as my number one passion right now. There are so many stories to tell now that I can hardly keep track of them all. I have a blog to write to, a flash fiction site to run and occasionally contribute to, an anthology project in its planning stages, short stories to write and submit, and at least one good novel idea in the making. I’d love to see my name sitting on a bookshelf somewhere and be able to give up working a ‘regular job’ in favor of becoming an author.

Of course, there’s always Halo. I don’t have as much time for video games as I used to. I do miss being able to play, but there are only just so many hours in a day. What free time I have is given to relaxing and to some writing. But I still have Friday nights reserved to join the guys on Xbox Live for some Halo 2 multiplayer action. Somehow this first-person shooter has captured my devotion, even to the point of joining up with one of the most renowned and respected clans involved with the game.

These are my passions, the hobbies that I am fanatical about. All the others I have had to set aside for the time being. Perhaps one day I’ll have time for some of them again, but if not I doubt that I will even really miss them that much. There are certainly plenty of other things to hold my attention.

‘Cheap’ Gameplay: Is It Really?

Some of you may know that I am a _huge_ fan of the wildly popular _Halo: Combat Evolved_ and _Halo 2_ video games for Xbox. I enjoy them so much that they were the motivating force behind my purchasing an annual subscription to “Xbox Live”:http://www.xbox.com/en-US/live/ so that I could get on and enjoy the multiplayer environment with several of my friends, who are all spread out around the country (this from a guy who traditionally _hates_ most FPS(first-person shooter) games). It’s gotten to where we have our regular weekly “Halo Night” just so we can get on Live and chat, laugh, and play for a few hours each week.

Over at “Tied the Leader”:http://tiedtheleader.blogspot.com, XerxDeeJ has yet another “good article”:http://tiedtheleader.blogspot.com/2006/01/firing-squad.html about a major complaint in the Halo 2 multiplayer environment. Spawn camping is a technique that some players engage in to quickly increase their kill and medal counts, particularly in team environments. Since teams have their own bases, every time a member is killed, he typically respawns back at his own base. This fact means that anyone on the opposing team carrying the sniper rifle (who is also even remotely good at using it) can just set up camp near your base and pick you off as soon as you respawn, before you even have a chance to move. This tactic is decried as ‘cheap’ and ‘unfair’ and ‘unsportsmanlike’ by many.

“David Sirlin”:http://www.sirlin.net offers a “counterargument”:http://www.sirlin.net/Features/feature_PlayToWinPart1.htm to this viewpoint by saying that the difference here is between those who play to win and those who don’t (the author calls them ‘scrubs’). Sirlin says that gamers who play to win will exploit any and all aspects of the gameplay environment in order to secure their victory — and that they are completely justified in doing so. (He _does_ say that certain bugs in the game are off-limits, namely those games that crash the game or the system or eject any player from the game environment.) All the others, the ‘whiners’, are scrubs, who consider it bad form and dishonorable to do anything other than play the game from some arbitrary list of do’s-and-dont’s. Sirlin references fighting games specifically in his article, but his principles are meant to be applied across the board to all games.

What fuels this debate is a clash in mindsets. Many gamers play Halo 2 to have fun, to enjoy the richness and variety of a well-designed, well-implemented video game. But there are also those gamers who play for the sole purpose of winning, to dominate utterly, to annihilate the competition, to garner the fame, fortune, and bragging rights (well, the first and the last of those three, anyway) that go to the victor. These are the type whose sole identity seems to derive completely from their performance in gameplay, who seem to think that life and death and the weight of the galaxy hang upon how well they do. These are the guys (kids?) who boast and brag in the post-game lobby, who rub their victory in until it draws blood, and who are often the most proficient abusers of profanity. Because these are the guys who play to win.

There is some truth to the saying that simple is better — simplicity allows for the possibility of fewer mistakes, and it allows for easier implementation. Spawn camping is a simple solution. Why go out and find the other guy and risk getting killed when you can go to his base, carrying two fully loaded sniper rifles, and pick the whole team off as they respawn? It’s safe, it’s fast, and it looks _really_ good in your post-game stats. The trouble is that this is usually only fun for the guy doing the camping. For everyone else, it’s just frustrating. Playing to win and playing to have fun usually do not play well together. These two kids don’t know what it means to share their toys.

When you play to win, anything less than first place is unacceptable. When you play to win, anything less than first place doesn’t even approach fun. On the other hand, when you play to have fun, it’s ok to finish in 3rd place (or 5th or last) simply because you played the game. You had fun. You shared some laughs with your teammates. You revelled in the joy that is the Halo universe. Sure, you worked on perfecting your technique, but it wasn’t the end-all and it was ok if you screwed up and died miserably. A lot.

Is there anything wrong with playing to win? Not necessarily. Some of my best techniques in Halo 2 I learned from the guys that do, but that play-style is not really my cup of tea. My world, my reality, does not allow me the luxury of playing video games for hours on end, so when I do get on, I like to do the quick setup with a variant we all like and hammer out a few rounds of carnage before calling it a night. If I can perfect a particular technique along the way and further rule the leader board, so much the better. But that is not my goal, and it certainly isn’t the defining moment of my day. My goal is simply to have fun, to enjoy the camaderie of pals, and to play an excellent video game.

So, is spawn camping really cheap gameplay, and should those who consider it such just shut up and deal with it? Or is it unfair, with those who do it being considered cheaters or Halo 2 being ‘fixed’ to solve the issue? Ultimately, to me, it doesn’t matter. If you don’t want deal with it, don’t play with guys who do it or jump into matchmaking lists where the risk of spawn camping is likely to happen. My solution is simple — a private party for just myself and a handful of friends. Set up and play the gametypes we all enjoy, have a few laughs, and go home happy, relaxed, and refreshed from good times. For me, at least, that’s what matters most.

Stickies Are the New Sniper

Be forewarned — this _is_ a geek moment. If you are not a geek or you do not care about Xbox, Halo 2, or gameplay videos, now would probably be a good time to surf on. At least for the moment.

One of the things I love about the Halo 2 world is the plethora of gameplay videos, particularly the montage vids — snapshots of particularly awesome shots, snipes, melees, flag captures, bomb drops, and grenade throws. I love seeing how different people choose their music, choose which moments to capture and display, and choose the way in which they blend all these elements to create wonderful little videos for the rest of us to drool over.

But lately, there has been an overarching theme, and the montage vids are starting to become boring. Much as I love the sticky grenade (my best and possibly favorite weapon), it seems that it is the main video capture of choice these days. There are some truly spectacular tosses, thrown by guys who continually make my jaw drop in wonder and amazement, both in the range of the throw and the creativity by which they stick it, quite literally, to the other guy. But it’s beginning to be overdone, in my opinion. I miss the videos of the battle rifles, of the SMGs, the rockets. There are a lot of other weapons in the game and a lot of creative and very destructive ways of using them that are both flashy and inspiring. I’d love to see a few more of those types of videos. We know who the guys are now who can snipe in their sleep (not me) and who can throw a grenade all the way around Halo and stick it to the back of his own head (still not me). What happened to all the guys who can use the battle rifle with surgical precision or the plasma rifle to wreak untold havoc or run with oddball, beating everyone down he meets? I certainly enjoy the sticky/sniper videos and download every single one posted, but it’s time to mix it up a little again. There are other parts of the game that are just as much fun to watch and drool over and learn from.

Talking Smack

I’m a big fan of playing Halo 2 on Xbox Live. What I’m not so fond of, though, is other players talking trash, a.k.a. talking smack. When I was younger, I could talk trash with the best of them. My buddies and I would harass each other mercilessly, on the basketball courts, in school, during meals, on camping trips, just about everywhere. Looking back on it now, I realize that we were probably just really insecure with ourselves, as teenagers generally are. We were trying to be cool and fit in with our peers. We were trying to gain acceptance — with our families, with our friends, with each other — by proving that we were better than everyone else, even better than each other, at whatever it
was we did.

I don’t think we knew these were some of our motivations at the time.

Over the years I’ve stopped talking trash for the most part. A little light-hearted banter here, some good-natured ribbing there. Always, though, there is a laugh attached, and if ever it
becomes not funny to someone, it stops. Immediately.

Playing Halo 2 on XBL is a great experience, but I find that I enjoy the matchmaking lists, which match you up with groups of strangers for multiplayer gameplay, a lot less than when I first got connected. More and more I find that I enjoy the custom games, where it is just me with my friends, where there is no pressure to perform well (except from myself), and where the atmosphere is light and laughter is abundant. It gets me away from the goons in the matchmaking lists who talk trash, whether they have any right to or not.

My philosophy on talking trash is this: there’s no good reason to do it, at least not all the time. If you’re a good player, you certainly don’t need to talk trash. Everyone already knows that
you can back up your words because they’ve experienced it firsthand. And if you’re a mediocre or a horrible player, you still don’t need to talk trash. Everyone already knows that you can’t back up your words, often because they’ve experienced that firsthand, too.

A little bit of trash talk can be fun, which is why I specified above with ‘not all the time.’ I
know that when I’m excited because I just pulled off a difficult maneuver for the first time or cleaned up a tough kill, I’ll sometimes buzz the comm and rub it in a little, knowing full well that I’ll probably have to eat my own words in a few seconds (and I usually do). Fortunately, I play with a good group of guys who understand and who can dish out the trash talk just as quickly if I’m getting too cocky. Mostly, though, we just laugh and cheer, even if we were the victim of the kill at that moment — because we are just having a darn good time.

And that’s the way it should be.